Contemporary worship suffers from an emotional bias. It is disproportionately upbeat. I am not necessarily talking about the tempo of the music, although this bias is sometimes reflected in the tempo. I am talking about its emotional tone. The culture of evangelical worship has little tolerance for grief in the assembly.
Oh, we recognize that it’s normal to feel badly when there has been some set back or loss. We expect people to feel a measure of grief. But then we expect them to move on–and rather quickly. Come to the place of worship with the sorrow showing on your face and you are liable to be subjected to a tongue lashing by some well meaning worship leader who urges you to leave your troubles at the door, plant a smile on your face, and put some enthusiasm into the songs.
Those who say such things have good intentions but apparently have never read the Psalms. Yes, there are moments of great joy. There are many Psalms where the mood is upbeat. But there are also many that are filled with lament. It is ironic that those who worship the one the Bible describes as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” can be so impatient of those who are overcome with grief.
A few years ago songwriter Michael Card wrote a book and recorded an album focusing on the subject of lament. The project grew out of a series of personal losses, his sister’s loss of two infants, the death of his brother’s oldest son and then the tragedy of 9/11. All of this prompted Card to write the book A Sacred Sorrow and follow it up with an album entitled The Hidden Face of God. Card calls lament “the lost language of worship.”
It’s hard to worship through your tears. But that’s the problem. We’ve been trying to push ourselves beyond tears when we ought to worship God with our tears. It may not be the worship we would like to offer. But in that moment it is the best worship that we have. Because a weeping heart is our true heart. And that’s what God wants. Our true heart, not our presentable heart. Our true face, not our best face.